My name is Sarah Barton, the author of this blog. I am a parent concerned about the rapid and undemocratic conversion of our Community Schools to Academy status. The 2010 Academies Act is woefully deficient in its requirements for consultation, and many schools do no more than the minimum required by this act. Fortunately there are other laws that govern consultation (for example the 2010 Equalities Act) and schools that do not act within these laws could be legally challenged in the form of a Judicial Review. However, it seems many schools are unaware of these legal obligations, and it would seem that the DfE, eager for as many schools to convert as swiftly as possible, is not alerting them either. It is therefore vital that school communities themselves insist that full and proper consultation takes place.
I have been leading a parent campaign against Academy conversion for Bournville School & Sixth Form Centre. Bournville School is a happy and successful Community School serving a diverse community in the south-west of Birmingham. We have won a reprieve with the Governors agreeing to postpone consideration of Academy conversion until after September 2012.
Since beginning the campaign at Bournville School I have been asked by other school communities in the West Midlands region for help with their campaigns.This blog is therefore intended to be both a home for the Hands Off Bournville School campaign (HOBS) and a resource for other school communities concerned about their school being converted into an Academy. If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute as a guest blogger, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is wrong with Academies?
As well as my concerns about deficient consultation, there are many other reasons that I am concerned about our schools being converted into Academies. The three reasons that most concern me at the moment are as follows;
No democratic accountability coupled with enormous freedoms is a dangerous mix.
Academies are not democratically or locally accountable. They operate outside local authority control so they are not accountable to our locally elected representatives. In addition the governing body of an Academy is appointed rather than elected and can include as few as 2 parent governors (a local authority school has elected governors, a third of whom must be parents). This lack of democratic accountability is coupled with dangerous freedoms. Academies do not have the same obligations as local authority schools to follow the national curriculum, to abide by national pay and conditions for staff or to report on their results. Many converting schools give assurances during the consultation period that nothing will change, or that the only changes they make will be changes for the better, but they cannot guarantee this because ultimately the school leadership will change. Future leadership will inherit the same enormous freedoms to change with no local accountability. This will impact on generations of children to come.
No demonstrated educational benefits
Despite the DfE’s propaganda machine churning out miracle success stories about individual Academies and claims that Academies improve attainment, in fact the government’s own commissioned report by the National Audit Office found that there is no evidence of any educational benefit in becoming an Academy. There is evidence however, that Academies widen the gap between the most and least disadvantaged pupils and that Academies change their intake to reduce the number of pupils on their rolls who receive free school meals or who have special educational needs.
Government agenda of dismantling the state education system.
The government wants all schools to become Academies either by force or choice. This would mean the end of our state education system. Instead we would have independent schools funded by the state, each being its own admissions authority and setting its own curriculum. The Academies programme is part of the government’s agenda of creating a new education marketplace. An Academy has to register as a business and compete in the marketplace just like an independent school. Edu-businesses are waiting in the wings to make a profit out of our schools. Michael Gove does not object to schools themselves making a profit and this may be the future for Academies – who, once out of the local authority system, are especially vulnerable if there are further central government cutbacks. The prime concern of these schools will be competing in the marketplace, when it should be the education and wellbeing of our children.